The history of dance has a deep past. What began as a necessity to tribal culture and early humans has evolved into the multiplicitous art form that we’ve come to admire today. But how did we get to this point? What about the rhythmic movement of our bodies would be so intoxicating that we can’t help but sway to a steady beat? This week, we look at a short history of the art form, linking ourselves to our ancestors through shared roots in dance.
Thinking back to dance in ancient times, one can’t help but call the image of an indigenous group dancing around a camp fire as part of a ceremony. Historically speaking, this is fairly accurate. Dance was originally purposed for important events like story telling and healing (something we still do today). It served both a practical purpose and acted as entertainment. Just as painting and drawing were once used to keep track of history and stories, so too was dance used as more of a necessity than a simple pleasure. As nomadic tribes would settle into the more modern civilizations we picture today, entertainment would become a part of everyday life. This allowed for different art forms to flourish.
Dance would evolve as civilizations grew. The ancient Greeks would use dance as a form of entertainment at celebrations of the gods. The Romans would do the same, using dance as both ritual and entertainment at parties and wedding ceremonies. One of the most interesting things about it’s evolution is the different forms dance would take as it evolved all over the world. Over in Asia it became popular among young women of a certain age; courtesan’s would use the art as a way of displaying their social standing. Highly choreographed dances worked their way into tradition throughout China, Japan, and India. Even today these dances are celebrated as part of the tradition, culture, and heritage of countries all over the world. The same craze took place in Europe, and was eventually brought to America, as dance became lessof a spontaneous reaction to a moment, and more of a stylized art piece. By the time ballet came to be, well practiced and disciplined dance was no longer playing a small role, but rather the center of many’s lives as both a career choice and societal interest.
Today we celebrate dance in all of it’s forms. We hold on to the tradition of our ancestors, while incorporating modern flare. While choreographed dance still reigns supreme in high art, the practice of spontaneous dance through feeling is still alive and well. Through modern dance we are able to evoke the primitive side we all harbor in our hearts, feeling the beat of music and moving accordingly. It’s truly pure and beautiful.